Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Friday, March 30, 2007

At the Risk of Repeating Myself

Fifteen years ago (YIKES! How the hell did that happen?), in a search for my first post-college job, I interviewed with a man who asked me if I was comfortable reporting to men. I think that's like asking a person of color if he or she is comfortable reporting to a white person. Most times, in most organizations, ya don't get a lotta choice about that kinda thing. I mean, really. If you're not comfortable reporting to a man (or a white person) your career opportunities are probably going to be fairly limited, especially in certain geographic areas. (Minnesota, anyone?) Of course I blathered on about how I had often reported to men and blah, blah, blah, stupid things, blah. Then interviewer boss guy said, "That's good. Personally, I prefer managing women over managing men."

(This is where I may have told this story before): I came home and repeated my experience to my stupid post-college boyfriend. "Why," I asked, completely flummoxed, "Would he prefer to manage women over men - like it was the easiest choice, ever?" SP-CB said, "Simple. Because most men think they're better than they actually are, and most women think they're worse than they actually are." Which brings me to . . . my point. Yes, you knew I had one you patient little readers, didn't you?

I may have mentioned the aftermath of posting grades. I hate it. I always feel like I'm sending a bomb threat to an elementary school when I click the "submit" button in the online gradebook. I try to do it late at night, but it doesn't matter - I always find several interesting/furious/incomprehensible e-mails waiting for me the next morning. A few days ago, I posted students' grades from their midterm. Within less than 12 hours, I got this e-mail:

Hi Teacher Lady this is Steve from your sexuality class on mondays. I was just wondering what questions i got wrong on the test and if i could possibly see you in your office hours whenever they are. I just wanted to see my test because i felt really confident about that test after i took it, because i studied that study guide really good and i just thought i would have done better on the exam than i did. So if you could please e-mail me back i'd appreciate it. Thanks!

Here's where the male/female thing comes in. Maybe. Much to the annoyance of my college roommates (and now my husband), I often had either NO sense of how I did on an exam, or had a strong sense that I completely bombed it. Just last semester, I told Mr. J. how I thought I had bombed a particular midterm of my own. He looked at me and said very clearly, "I do not want to hear it anymore. Do you know who are you? You are the girl everyone hated in undergrad. You're the girl who cried, 'Oh, I think I failed' after the exam and then skipped out of class the next week because you got the highest grade." It sounds harsh in this rendition, but believe me, it was more funny than anything. And sure enough, the next week I came home, tail between my legs, hoping he wouldn't ask how I did. Because I did really, really embarrassingly well.

But in undergrad, when I did kind of blow it, I always thought, "Yeah, that seems about right." Or, "Well, what can I expect - I pretty much suck and oh yeah - I probably should have read the book." It NEVER occurred to me that I might have done better than my grade indicated.

Is this a male/female thing? (Although I have had one female student send me a similar e-mail, mostly these are from male students). Or is this a Teacher Lady has no self-awareness and a pathetic lack of self-esteem thing? Maybe it just boils down to confidence, but when you've gotten a low "C" on a midterm and you find that somehow impossible, does that cross the line from confident to cocky? Or maybe just completely delusional? I don't know. What has been your experience with this? I'd like to know your thoughts as a student (at some point in our lives, we've all been students, right?) or as a teacher, if that's your chosen profession.


Teacher "I think I'm worse than I actually am" Lady.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Game No One Wants to Win

Remember how on the Johnny Carson version of The Tonight Show, Johnny and the band would sometimes play a game called "Stump the Band"? Johnny would walk around the audience and if an audience member could name a song that the band didn't know, that person had effectively "Stumped the Band" and then they got some kind of magnificent prize like . . . a year's supply of motor oil or something.

You know what's not a good version of that game? Stump the Dermatologist. I'll try to spare you the most disgusting details, so here's the short version:

The first week of January, I notice something resembling a large, uh, blemish, smack in the middle of my right cheek (the one on my face, pervs!) and I think, "Damn it all to hell, you stupid perimenopause! I've NEVER had acne anywhere but the T-zone! Thanks for nothing, bitches!" Then I begin the usual treatment. After two months, I realize that NOTHING is going to make this thing go away. Nothing. Well - to be fair, it's not like I tried Lysol or anything, but you catch my drift.

After a few lectures (mostly from parents, and yes, I'm 36. What's your point?), I make an appointment with the family dermatologist. After all, I have a family history of skin cancer like you wouldn't believe. Both sides. A family history of straight white teeth and 20/20 vision? Not so much. But I digress.

My lovely dermatologist, Dr. G. says, "I'm concerned, but I'm not urgently concerned." He didn't say it was cancer, so I'm not freaking out. "Okay," I say calmly, "What is it?" He holds my face in his hands and tilts my face up toward his giant light. Then he takes off his glasses and squints. Puts the glasses back on and sighs. "I really don't know." Uh, okay. You've been practicing dermatology for at least 25+ years and you don't know???!!!?

If you're the least bit interested in the outcome, here it is: Since I'm young (his words, but still) he said he doesn't want to do a biopsy and then come back and have to cut again. His exact words, "I don't want lots of scarring, so if I do cut it out, I'm going to cut once, and cut deep. It will hurt." Goody. But he wants to rule out cancer, so for one month, I'm slathering on this topical antibiotic cream. He doesn't think the festering sore on my face is a bacterial infection, but just in case it might be, he wants to go this route before we do any, um, cutting.

I really don't care at this point, I just want the thing gone. We're going on three months now. That's longer than I've had most of my boyfriends, for cryin' out loud! But what I do care about? Stumping the dermatologist. I imagine the only thing worse would be stumping the gynecologist. Those are the people who get their pictures taken and put into medical school textbooks for future study. If my guy asks if he can take a picture of this thing on my face, I think my answer will be "No. Not even in the name of science."

Off to grade papers! Sincerely, Teacher - "Good God, what is that on your face?! Someone call the news!" Lady.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ask and You Shall Receive!

Magpie asked if we now had no bathroom floor and no kitchen ceiling. That was the case. However, like a loser, I forgot the camera the day Mr. J. decided that "everything must go" - this is just a preview. Remember how I said I didn't want the 70-year-old floor and I did want a new bathtub? And Mr. J. said "HAIL no!" and I ignored him because I knew I'd get my way anyway? This picture is the very beginning stages. Look at the patch of light below the bathtub. That, my friends, is the kitchen window. You can also see a teeny patch of light green - that is my dining room wall. And of course, the ubiquitous f---ing construction trash bin. I hate you, construction trash bin! (Long story.)

Mr. J. and his father are re-doing the plumbing. Hence, they had to follow the plumbing to see where it went.

Actually, that's a lie. I have no idea what the hell they are doing at any given moment. I'm kind of along for the ride at this point. Other than clean-up crew, I'm not involved until it's time to spend money - picking the new stuff - woo-hoo! Anyway. Mr. J. had planned on somehow "replacing" this portion of the floor because the whole Don't Break the Ice thing was just too messy and opened up the "to replace or not to replace" bathtub conundrum. Then I came over the next day after a "We could use your help" phone call to find the bathroom floor gone-zers. And I didn't bring my camera!!!!!! Dammit! But here is a photo of the old tub. I took this picture standing in my kitchen. Doesn't it bring tears to your eyes? I showed this picture to a dear friend and she said, "This is the stuff of my worst nightmares. Truly.

Then we have a few more photos for your viewing enjoyment, now that I may have figured this photo thing out, thanks to your help! Well, sort of. See what happens when you don't blog for two months?

Behold, our bathroom in its pristine true "before" stage. In our house, "before" means "Before Mr. J. sees it." If you are old, and you live in Mr. J.'s house, beware. Your days are numbered! Hmm . . . I really hope that does not apply to humans, because then I'm completely screwed, and not in the good way. But I digress.

What I called "Bathroom after" before the tub and floor were removed. How silly of me. How could I think this was an "after"? Note back of Mr. J.'s head. Cute, yes?

And now, our NEW bathroom. The End. Kind of.


Monday, March 19, 2007

The Biggest Pile of Crap, Ever!

Alternate title: Why Mr. J. and I may be single-handedly responsible for global warming.
If someone ever says to you, "Aw, that's just a bunch of crap!" or, "That's a load of crap!" You can say, "Actually, no. There IS a bunch of crap in Teacher Lady's garage. And it's really a ton of crap, too. You wouldn't believe it if you didn't see it."

Lest you say to yourself, "Aw, self! I've seen much bigger piles of crap," let me tell you this: The first two weeks after we had gotten the keys to the new "Love Shack", we rented TWO dumpsters. Two. That's a lot of dead bodies one could hide if one were into that sort of thing. But I digress!

They were filled almost immediately. I am learning that when you buy a 70-year-old house, you get a lot of charm. You also get a lot of stuff that doesn't really work so great. (Did I mention we have a coal cellar?!!! A COAL cellar!! I think that is just so neat. Not that I have the slightest idea what in the hell we're going to do with a coal cellar, but still. I've always wanted one.) The filled dumpsters were taken away and then we looked at each other and said, "Fuck. We still needed those."

Hence, our falling-down garage has become our dumpster du jour. See that big white thing at the bottom of the pile, in the middle? Well, sort of the middle. That, my friends is the ORIGINAL cast-iron bathtub. Yes, that's right folks. It had been glazed and re-glazed and re-glazed and as much as I love a good cast-iron bathtub, just LOOKING at it skeeved me out. Mr. J. at first said there was NO way he was removing it. Apparently, in one of his first "Handyman Special" purchases, he removed an original cast iron bathtub from the premises. I guess it was too wide to carry down the stairs so he and his father HOISTED it out the window. Does my hubby know how to rock the hizz-ouse or what!

So even though he said "No way!" - actually, he said, "Oh HAIL, no way!" - I wasn't worried. Now ladies, I feel like the mother in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. If I've learned nothing about Mr. J. in the last 4 years, it's this: His initial reaction, whenever I ask him for anything - especially anything home repair related - is this: No. The first 6 months we were married, I'd get very upset and pout and stamp around and mutter things about how he didn't really love me and blah, blah, blah. Then I realized: Usually within 24 hours, he'd return and say, "You know, I was thinking, with 'insert logical "manly" reason here', we should probably use ceramic tile, paint the bathroom lavender, insert "girly" request here." And somehow, whatever I requested makes perfect sense.

And do I know my husband, or do I know my husband because a few short weeks later, there were giant pieces of the now-dead cast-iron tub all over my kitchen floor. Remember that game, Don't Break the Ice? It was kind of like that. Mr. J. and his brother took giant metal manly smashing tools and just smashed the tub into pieces and smashed the floor underneath it and watched the whole mess fall down into the kitchen. Good times.

I would like to incorporate more photos of this whole process throughout this post. It can be done. Others have done it. However, when I try to add more pictures, even if I have my cursor in the "correct" place, Blogger still inserts the picture up at the top. Can anyone help me? Thanks!

More pictures of my worst nightmare to come!!!


Sunday, March 18, 2007

How I Spent My Blog Hiatus

It's the "after" picture of the kitchen in my new house! Don't you love it!?!? In the past month and a half I have pondered such important questions like: Am I up-to-date on my tetanus shot? How many days does it take for concrete dust to leave your lungs? And of course, What is the purpose of wearing a face mask when you still have black mucus running out of your nose for days after a weekend spent in the "destruction" phase?

Oh, my blog friends - how I missed you! Honestly, I did not miss blogging - much to my amazement. But I did miss your funny comments and sage advice. I definitely do not miss the voice in my head constantly yammering, "Could this be a blog entry? Or this? Or that?"

So what brought me back to the blogosphere, you ask? It is a stack of 40 ungraded papers staring at me, mocking me. Telling me I have neither the mental capacity nor the patience to slog through them. Blogging - I have realized - is an EXCELLENT way to procrastinate. I'm doing something. I'm not just sitting on the couch, slack-jawed while I wonder which one of the Real Housewives of Orange County has her own original God-given breasts. And finally, if I can't bemoan the current state of higher education in the blogosphere, then where, I ask you where am I to do my bemoaning!?

Because I know you're just itching for a fix, I'll give you a few student anecdotes.

This first one isn't even an anecdote. It's just a sentence that made me smile. And then weep for the future: "I got tired of feeling like my boyfriend's constellation prize." Dar-ling. Darling. Put down the iPod. Pick up a book. For cripes sake!!!! I think I had those words confused when I was in 5th grade. Oy.

Here's one that would have sent me into a blog tizzy just a few short months ago. And now? Look at me - almost calm, cool and collected, although still knowing in my heart that this will come back to bite me in the ass via course evaluations. Yet. It felt DAMN good. Let the anecdote regaling commence:

Leggy, thin blonde student wanders up to me before class begins. She is in no way a "dumb" blonde - she gives more of that rich, privileged, country-club and private school educated blonde vibe. No Mystic Tan for this gal. You can tell she's spent her whole life slathered in sunscreen. (And good for her!) And it was probably slathered on by the nanny or a bevy of servants.

Leggy Thin Blonde: Um, yeah. That midterm thing - when is that? The 14th or something? That's not going to work for me, so I need to reschedule. When can I take it?

Me: (For the first time in my teaching career, I think I am containing any sense of shock I may feel. Because perhaps I am not shocked. This is both good and bad) I'm assuming you cannot take it because of one of the four acceptable reasons listed in the university rules and regulations. You will also find these same reasons listed on the first page of the syllabus.
LTB: Blank stare. Eyebrow raise.
Me: Remember, death in the immediate family, severe illness with physician documentation, blah, blah, blah.
LTB: (Shakes beautiful blonde hair with perfect highlights) No, it's not any of those things. I just can't make it.
Me: (At this point - believe it or not - I'm trying to be flexible. Give me something here. Your dog lost a limb in a freak sled-dogging accident. Come on. Something.) Well . . . what, um, is it?
LTB: (Sighs exasperatedly.) Look, it's not like I'm going to the beach or something. I'm a skier.
Me: I - um, what does this have to do with the exam? I'm confused.
LTB: Look, I don't blame you for this stupid situation. (At this point I am DYING to say something sarcastic like, "Phew! What a relief, because I was worried!") I know it's not your fault.
Me: Completely bewildered stare. Stammering. All I can think is: Things are always my fault. Except in this case, she's telling me they're not, but I don't know what the hell isn't my fault. But the fact that whatever it is is not my fault is good news, indeed. I think.
LTB: I blame the stupid university for having spring break so late. I HAVE to leave early because otherwise the snow will be all melted. (Rolls eyes.) It's not like I'm leaving for break early to go lounge around on the beach or something.
Aside: This last statement fascinated me. Being neither a skier nor a sun worshipper, I had no idea there was some sort of hierarchy of spring breakers. Clearly, one is more worthwhile than the other. But it's not like she said she was going down to New Orleans to help continue to rebuild the city for dozens of homeless families. Then I could have maybe understood the eye roll.
Me: As much as I would like to help you out, I cannot. I'm guessing many students would like to leave (Four days early! Class is on Tuesday afternoon!) for spring break. If I offer you this opportunity, I would have to offer it to the other 74 students in the class. Since I don't live on or near campus --
LTB: (Interrupting) I don't live on campus either. I'm commuting all the way from Snootyville!
This was another statement that intrigued me. Was she trying to empathize with me? One-up me? Show that somehow we were peers? I didn't get it and was dying to say, "Hey! WASP Queen: We weren't talking about you!"
Me: Then you understand that me traveling to campus a possible 75 different times to accommodate all students would be both unrealistic for me and unfair to your fellow students.
LTB: (Looking at me with pity in her eyes) I'm not not going. (She said this to me kindly and with patience, like I might have just a wee bit of a developmental disability.)
Me: I understand that. You're certainly entitled to that choice.
LTB: So, like, how will this affect my grade if I don't take the exam?
Me: I don't know exactly how you're doing in this class right now. I guess it depends.
LTB: (Exasperatedly) Like, just pretend I have all the points so far.
Me: I guess, I mean, well . . . I'd have to look at the syllabus and get a calculator. I'm not really good at doing math in public.
LTB: I guess I'll have to figure it out. But I'm not changing my travel plans.
Me: Okay.
LTB: (Speaking kindly, as if I'm her servant and she just wrongly accused me of stealing her jewelry) That's all right. I understand you have to be fair. To the others.

Look at me! Minimal stammering! I've come a long way, baby!!

In other school-related news, we have two comments from last semester's evaluations:

Really neurotic


Amazingly inspirational. The best teacher I have ever had.

Those two comments have really given me pause. One person's "amazingly inspirational" is another person's "really neurotic." I type with some seriousness: I can no longer think that course evaluations have any validity. Well, they may for my department chair, and perhaps for the Human Resources team that handles employees with severe mental health issues, but they can't for me. If I'm going to spend two weeks being depressed and - accurately enough - really neurotic about the first comment, then I have to spend two weeks throwing myself a ticker tape parade over the second comment. Or, I could just decide that they average out to "average" or "zero" and go on with my day. Because really: Am I ever going to be NOT neurotic? No. And believe me, I've tried. Me and half of the licensed clinical counselors in the Western hemisphere have tried and failed.

My conclusion? Although I've been told this by everyone who has ever met me, I have finally realized: Not everyone is going to like me. And so what? And now I feel sorry for Sally Field and also ashamed that it took me 36 and a half years to grasp this concept.

Perhaps I should have started small for my first foray back into our lovely world. But I wanted my first post-hiatus post to have been worth waiting for. *&$(&#*@ people-pleasing tendencies! Okay, maybe I'll catch on in another 36 and a half years! I'll keep you posted.

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